A beginner surfer takes five after catching fun summer waves at bustling Cox Bay Beach. (Westerly file photo)

A beginner surfer takes five after catching fun summer waves at bustling Cox Bay Beach. (Westerly file photo)

New tax for Tofino surf schools strengthens call for lifeguards

Surf schools are being asked to pay a minimum annual rent of $500 to the province

Sorry brah, there’s a new surf tax in town.

Riding into 2022, Tofino surf schools are being asked to apply for a Licence of Occupation with the province in order to conduct surf lessons on Cox Bay Beach and Chesterman Beach.

The minimal annual rent is $500 and if the surf school passes 500 customers, it goes up, ranging from $3,000 to $5,000 per year.

There are about 10 surf schools that will need to apply for this new Licence of Occupation with terms ranging from five years up to 30 years.

“I think this is an acknowledgement of just how busy those beaches have become in the Tofino area. It’s an acknowledgement of the activity. By having a Land Act tenure those folks can secure their rights to operate their business in a legitimate way according the legislation,” said David Robinson, the B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development resource manager out of Port Alberni.

In the past, Tofino surf schools were operating under a Permission Policy. Robinson said after reviewing and discussing with the District of Tofino, it was decided that surf schools using the beach for commercial purposes should be treated under the Adventure Tourism Policy, similar to activities like guided kayaking.

“The foreshore beach area is the Crown foreshore. That is Crown land that area between high tide and low tide area,” said Robinson, adding that consultation with local First Nations whom have overlapping territory with the Crown foreshore is planned.

Bill Fend has been in the surf business for nearly 20 years. His Licence of Occupation on behalf of Long Beach Surf Shop and Surf Sister Surf School is in process.

Fend told the Westerly News that they don’t have a problem paying, but his biggest concern is lifesaving.

There is currently no surf guard program on the West Coast.

“Surf instructors provide all the lifesaving services. That’s when it becomes problematic. On a busy Saturday in the summer there are probably 100 to 150 students getting lessons on Cox Bay,” said Fend.

Jay Rosene, owner at Endlessride surf school in Ucluelet, couldn’t agree more.

In one day last summer, he said he saved six people struggling in the surf at Wickaninnish Beach.

“We need lifeguards like California needs rain. Every other ocean community has lifeguards. Even Vancouver has lifeguards and they don’t even have waves there. I think Municipal and Regional District tax (MRDT) funds should go towards creating a safe environment for the tourists,” said Rosene, who pays an annual business permit fee of about $70 to the federal government to operate his surf school on Long Beach and Wickaninnish in the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.

“With all this tax money we could hire a private lifeguard service for all the beaches from Ucluelet to Tofino,” he said.

Robinson said the annual rent collected from Tofino surf schools will go into general revenue, and that from the local government office level it would be hard to dictate where the funds go.

“It’s not really earmarked specifically for the community, but I think indirectly it’s part of the revenue that helps pay for services that people in Tofino and Ucluelet enjoy,” he said.

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